A court in Catalonia has suspended the day-release privileges of five of the pro-independence leaders jailed last year over their roles in the failed unilateral attempt to secede from Spain in 2017.
The decision, which followed submissions from public prosecutors, has been criticised by the Catalan regional president, Quim Torra, who said it was proof of the Spanish government’s unwillingness to enter into good-faith negotiations on regional independence.
Unrest erupted once again in the wealthy north-eastern Spanish region last October after Spain’s supreme court convicted nine senior regional independence leaders
– including the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras – of offences including sedition, misuse of public funds and disobedience.
Junqueras was sentenced to 13 years in prison, while the former Catalan foreign minister Raül Romeva was sentenced to 12 years and the former interior minister Joaquim Forn was given a 10-and-a-half-year sentence.
Two influential pro-independence grassroots activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, were sentenced to nine years’ jail.
Earlier this month, the five prisoners were granted grade three status, which meant they were allowed out on day release and only had to sleep in prison from Monday to Thursday each week.
But on Tuesday, a judge ordered the suspension of their “semi-liberty” after prosecutors argued that penal authorities and the Catalan government had granted grade three status “not in the interest of rehabilitation, but instead exclusively to alter the sentencing decision of the supreme court and its effective enforcement”.
Prosecutors also pointed out that neither Junqueras nor Romeva had yet served a quarter of their sentences – including time in pre-trial detention – which is one of the requirements for the granting of grade three status.
Lawyers for the five were given three days to appeal against the suspension.
Torra, who has been criticised for his government’s handling of the resurgence of Covid-19 in Catalonia, denounced the decision in a statement on Tuesday evening.
He accused Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government, which has taken a far less heavy-handed approach to the independence issue than its conservative predecessor, of being behind the move.